Election 2016

Being Libertarian vs. Being Anti-Establishment: The Crucial Difference

Being against business as usual in DC doesn't mean being pro-liberty.


Meredith Bragg/Reason.com

Here's an interesting piece from Corie Whalen Stephens, writing at EveryJoe. It's a meditation on the Tea Party, the Ron Paul Revolution, "libertarian populism," and the current Trump moment. "This Presidential Cycle is a Reminder That Anti-Establishment Doesn't Mean Pro-Liberty," reads the headline. Snippet:

I've noticed in the months since this presidential cycle has unfolded that a surprising amount of people from the liberty and tea party networks I've built up are sympathetic toward Donald Trump; a man that Ron Paul has in my opinion correctly labeled a "dangerous authoritarian."

The tea party movement, which ushered libertarian-leaning politicians like Rand Paul, Justin Amash, Thomas Massie, Raul Labrador, and Mick Mulvaney into the halls of Congress, was in my view a resounding success. It was a political force that I was elated to have been a part of since its inception, and it's still my belief that these particular men represent the best of the Republican Party and the conservative movement.

What has come as a less than pleasant revelation however, is the fact that a sizable chunk of the group that helped to empower these honorable individuals is not made up of people who are meaningfully pro-liberty. Thanks to Trump-mania, it's become clear that a contingent of the coalition responsible for these elections was simply "anti-establishment," in perhaps the most vapid way imaginable.

As Congressman Thomas Massie said recently to a group of young professionals in his district, "I'm thinking, wow, the American public really seems to like these libertarian ideas. And then Donald Trump runs and he gets all of their (Rand Paul and Ron Paul) voters, he gets all of my voters. I'm thinking, no, they're just voting for the craziest guy in the race.?It was very sobering for me. I'm that guy."

Read more.


I'm confident that Trump the candidate will fade, though there's every reason to believe that alot of his attitude and temperament will live on, whether in the candidacy of Ted Cruz or somebody else. The mix of bravado, bluster, and bashing (of immigrants, of foreign powers, of other candidates as "weak," etc.) is appealing to lots of people, after all.

Where Whalen is understandably disillusioned by her experience, which she notes is in part generational, I'm actually kind of encouraged to see so many different people from different places drawing distinctions between forms of anti-establishment attitudes. The libertarian instinct will ultimately prevail for many reasons, but not least of which is that it's built not upon fear and anxiety but on appeals to the positive dreams and aspirations of people.

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  1. I follow her on the Tweeterz. This is good stuff here. A bit, “Duh – ya THINK?” But well done.

    Plus, would.

    1. I didn’t know necrophilia was your thing.

      1. The colder, the better

        1. Almanian coldpacks?

          Now you have my vote.

        2. At least one of you should be stiff, right?

            1. You mean, like…

              I have a stiffee, for you as a stiff, and stuff?!?!?

      2. “The Growing Youth Liberty Moment”

        Those words in the same sentence are kind of a sad commentary.

        The youth are usually liberty-oriented by definition.

        I mean, back in my day, if you were under 21, all you wanted to do was be free to ride your machine and not be hassled by the man.

        Now youth-liberty is looked upon like a curious, novel idea.

        1. I feel like the young are usually liberty-oriented in regards to themselves. Coming around to the idea of other people having liberties, too, takes a bit more maturity to set in, in general.

          1. feel like the young are usually liberty-oriented in regards to themselves. Coming around to the idea of other people having liberties, too, takes a bit more maturity to set in, in general.

            Your observation is not a young-specific thing. When it comes to one’s own freedoms and choices, just about everyone is a libertarian. When it comes to somebody else’s freedom and choices, suddenly there’s no libertarians around.

            1. Fair enough.

            2. Especially libertarians.

              1. You mean the group that supports BOTH the rights of gay people to marry and the rights of Christian conservatives to not bake them wedding cakes?

        2. “And we wanna get loaded!”

          1. “and that’s what we’re gonna do! We’re gonna have a party . . . “

            1. Have the decency to post the video.


        1. Holy shit!!!

          If they showed that on college campuses today…

          Would they all proclaim how “deep” the art was?

          Or would they all run and hide in their “safe spaces”?

          I for one, have NO clue… OK, call me “old”…

    2. Duh ta think was my first thought when reading the headline

  2. The libertarian instinct will ultimately prevail for many reasons

    Oh, that youthful certainty and optimism are so….adorable!

    *pinches Nick’s cheeks, has another, long draw that the Jager flask*

  3. Thanks to Trump-mania, it’s become clear that a contingent of the coalition responsible for these elections was simply “anti-establishment,” in perhaps the most vapid way imaginable.

    This has been crystal fucking clear for a while now. And the worst is that these anti-establishment types, much like the hippies of the 60s, aren’t anti-authority as the cause of their anti-establishment attitudes, they just want the authority they like to prevail.

    1. Well, that’s, like, your opinion, man….

    2. I remember trying to explain the difference between anti-establishment and anti-authoritarian to someone. I felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere.

      1. Its time to face a undeniabl reality libertarians is more smarticle then those mindless libtards and rethuglicans.


    3. … they just want the authority they like to prevail

      So, what you’re saying is that authority boners come in all shapes and sizes.

      1. Yes, but they mostly tend to be choads.

  4. Nick continues to give off a very faint “I might not like Cruz” vibe…

    1. Yeah, what is up with that? Did Cruz narrow his gaze at Nick in a press conference or something?

  5. God help us if there is a terrorist attack resulting in triple digit fatalities before the presidential election. We’ll have a full-blown fascist in the Whitehouse then, be it Trump or Clinton.

    1. Hillary is far more practiced at fascism.

      1. No doubt, but Trump seems to be a quick study.

        1. Not sure if I would describe Trump a quick study on any subject. I would gamble on his incompetence to keep the government mired up for four years.

          1. Hey, now, what are you a cuckservative? He went right to ‘kill their families too’ when discussing terrorists. That was mighty cleaver of him.

            1. He will change his tune in light of the latest attack. He says what will help his popularity and I don’t think that includes killing baby girls. That said, who knows what he really thinks

            2. That was mighty cleaver of him.


        2. Hillary learned it. Trump is a natural.

      2. You could have said she’s more facile at fascism.

    2. My assumption is that it will be Hillary as long as the terrorism threat stays “real,” because she is familiar and the others are unknown.

      1. If I were president, I would appoint Hillary as Ambassador to Libya.

        1. -4 employees

      2. Who else will pick up the phone in the middle of the night?

    3. Again with the pants shitting about Fascism.

      1. You know who else pooh poohed fascism?

        1. Von Hindenburg?

        2. Okay, dammit. I’m sorry about shitting the bed last night. But I was really drunk.

    4. James O’Keefe (that is the Acorn buster right) should make his next project one where he approaches campaigns and offers to stage a terrorist attack for them. He can offer to make it look just the way they want to boost their campaigns. For example, white NRA gun nutters could be paid to hit a black church with guns they bought at a gun show for Hillary’s campaign. Or for Trump, they could have a bunch of Mexicans with F&F guns shoot up a white church.

      My guess is that most if not all campaigns would at least entertain the idea.

  6. Hmmm. Some former Tea Party people were always just disaffected Republicans. They want to blow the Repub party up because they feel betrayed by the RINOs on a number of issues but primarily on immigration. So what? I’m fine with that. Blow that bitch sky-high.

    1. And then what? We get to choose between facism (socialism plus racism), and socialism (the plain kind).

  7. I was hoping Rand would be the one to tap into that anti-establishment sentiment.

    He went the other way. Either by design or because the moron stole his thunder. Pity.

    1. Why would he? Retail libertarianism is at best anti-establishment light. On every issue of importance, libertarians are peddling the same globalist garbage as the other 2 parties, with a side of hookers and blow. When confronted with a candidate who challenges those propositions, the libertarians throw the same hissy fit as the rest of the establishment. Notice the attempt at repositioning now that it’s becoming obvious that as an alternative, the libertarians really aren’t much of one.

  8. OT – This never happened before they got rid of the GMO ingredients. Just sayin’


    1. E.Coli explains a lot actually.

    2. Christ, that thing has been going on for weeks now.

    3. Karma’s a bitch.

  9. “I’m sorry I ruined your Black Panter party”

    1. “Black Panter”? On purpose or was it a John-ism?

    2. “Oh, I’m sorry, there must be some mistake … I thought i was here for the Black Pantera Party…”

      1. I was thinking these guys performing in black face. Didn’t realize that there was a car named that.

  10. the libertarian instinct will ultimately prevail

    Despite all evidence to the contrary.

    1. Well technically true. After all the last human alive on the planet won’t have anyone to boss them around, so technically they are the One True Libertarian (unless they are a woman, because everyone knows there are no woman libertarians)

      1. The Overlords beg to differ.

        1. Syfy is making a miniseries of Childhood’s End. From the changes they’ve already announced, I figure the Overlords will turn out to resemble flying sharks.

          1. That was one depressing story – I shan’t be watching the TV series.

      2. Or he will be the Last True Monarch.

  11. Trump is a bloviating narcissist looking for a camera, and indeed is probably a dangerous authoritarian – which makes him like just everyone else with a chance to be Prez. Trump is not special that way whatsoever. What makes Trump special is he is comfortable with being a bloviating narcissist/authoritarian.

    Contrast that with the Shrillary, who will tell you she does all the things she does because she’s been ‘sacrificing’ for all our behalves over thirty-plus years. I think Shrillary is lying to herself before anyone else when she starts slinging that shit around; sort of a denial/defense mechanism so the creature doesn’t have to reckon with what it is.

    And I think that’s the one thing the Shrillaries/establishment et al hate so much about Trump; he’s an uncomfortable mirror for them to gaze upon, a reflection of a more successful version of themselves that’s trolling them at the same time.

    1. Re: The Zeitgeist,

      Trump is a bloviating narcissist looking for a camera, and indeed is probably a dangerous authoritarian[…]

      You can say that about any politician.

      “[Insert Name Here] is a bloviating narcissist looking for a camera, and indeed is probably a dangerous authoritarian!”

      The difference is that Trump’s authoritarianism is going to be Huuuge!

  12. Pretty good analysis of the totally separate factions, and something that I’ve had to deal with as a young libertarian(-ish). I wasn’t really taught to be libertarian by anyone, I kind of built my a bridge there myself by starting as a teenage Christian Conservative and gradually rejecting bits and pieces of that for things that made more sense until I wasn’t on anyone’s team anymore (including the LP, but close enough for government work, as they say). Ron Paul was something new and different that struck a chord with me, and so it was kind of natural to identify with his supporters, and then when his supporters went and found someone insane, it was natural to go “wait. Am I insane?” for a while. But hey, nothing to do but keep reasoning and keep growing as a person, and let it take me where it will.

    1. You can’t judge the quality of your own opinions by looking at people who happen to agree with you, or you will inevitably wind up with nothing. Just as every asshole has an opinion, every opinion has an asshole.

  13. Not as bad as in the 20th C., when libertarians were conflated w LaRouchians.

    1. Now we’re just compared to Doucheians.

      1. Compared to? You misspelled “are”.

  14. Yeah, libertarians are small potatoes. It’s increasingly shaking out that the main lines (domestically) are between tranzis and fascists. Yay!

    1. I thought it was Giant Douches and Turd Sammiches?

  15. The libertarian instinct will ultimately prevail for many reasons, but not least of which is that it’s built not upon fear and anxiety but on appeals to the positive dreams and aspirations of people.

    Citation needed.

  16. Trump may have met his Waterloo. If there’s one thing American Republican voters love more than America, Jesus and their own families put together it’s Israel. If the Donald can survive his heresy of last week I’ll be shocked.

  17. It has long been established that the Republican and conservative grassroots love big government. (They have a bit of a self-awareness problem.)

  18. The cry of liberty has been replaced by a dog whistle.

  19. He’s misinterpreted what actually happened. Ron Paul and the libertarians were supported by tea partiers, nationalists and other groups with no political representation of their own on the strength of the assumptions that if nothing else, the libertarians would leave them alone, and that if government took it’s thumb off of the scale, their stock would naturally rise.

    Now that other political movements have come into their own and into the mainstream which are closer to what they actually wanted, they no longer need to hide behind the libertarians. It was never a case of being sold on libertarianism, it was that the libertarians were the best chance of a neutral ground in absence of what they actually wanted. Hence, Trump eclipses Paul. It’s not a case of being anti-establishment for the sake of being anti-establishment, it’s a case of the political market finally coughing up a better product (or at least one closer to the tastes of it’s consumers).

  20. OK man I say like wow lets roll with it.


  21. Libertarians will never achieve control of the levers of power because gaining and asserting authority is contrary to their philosophy.

  22. Here’s another depressing thought:

    The fact that such a sizable portion of Tea Partiers are eager to switch to supporting Trump merely because he bombastically damns immigrants and foreigners is nothing short of vindication for those on the left who insisted (often over the objections of libertarians) that the Tea Party was basically racist.

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